How To Write A Personal Statement For Graduate School

A personal statement is​ a​ crucial part of​ your graduate school application, but writing it​ can also be one of​ the most stressful things on your to-do list. Many students do not consider writing to​ be their strong suit, and matters are only made worse due to​ the intense importance of​ this particular essay.

It may help many students to​ remember what the purpose of​ the personal statement is. The grad school admissions board uses it​ to​ determine two things:

• Whether you will be an​ asset to​ the graduate program
• Whether you will be an​ asset to​ the school itself

Graduate schools are typically judged by the performance of​ their students. as​ a​ result, no school wants to​ admit a​ student who will be a​ black mark on its record. Your personal statement’s purpose, therefore, is​ to​ convince the admissions board that:

• You are deeply motivated to​ learn about (and excel in) your chosen area of​ study
• You are a​ capable student who will perform well in​ your studies

In order to​ accomplish these tasks, there are several points that almost every personal statement must cover (unless, of​ course, asked to​ do differently by the admissions board itself). You also have the challenge of​ trying to​ make your personal statement stand out from the hundreds of​ other applicants, who will all be saying basically the same thing.

For more information on how to​ write a​ winning personal statement, follow the guidelines below.

What Should a​ Personal Statement Include?

Not every personal statement should look the same. Different graduate schools have different expectations of​ what you should include in​ your personal statement. First and foremost, your responsibility is​ to​ make sure your essay answers the questions asked.

In general, though, most personal statements should include five things:

• Area of​ study – This should be a​ given, but you would be amazed by how many students focus so much on answering other questions that they forget to​ state which program they are interested in. Don’t leave your reader to​ figure it​ out by deduction – make sure your chosen area of​ study is​ clearly stated in​ your personal statement.

• Your interest in​ the subject – By discussing the basis for your interest in​ the subject, your personal statement will prove you have a​ genuine interest in​ your chosen area of​ study. However, don’t simply say, “I have always wanted to​ be a​ ______.” Instead, use a​ personal experience to​ show – rather than tell – what drives your interest.

• Related experience – Graduate schools also look at​ your experience in​ the field in​ order to​ determine your interest level. For example, if​ you are pursuing a​ graduate degree in​ psychology, the admissions committee will expect you to​ see some combination of​ related courses, research work, internships, volunteer work, membership in​ related organizations, and/or other extracurricular activities.

• Your interest in​ the school – Many people choose a​ graduate school because it​ has a​ program that interests them. This should go into your personal statement. However, make sure you go beyond general flattery – the committee will want to​ see that you have actually researched the program. For instance, if​ you admire the work of​ a​ professor who teaches in​ the program, mention this and discuss why you would like the opportunity to​ study under him or​ her.

• Post-graduation plans – in​ order to​ choose the graduate program that is​ right for you, you should have a​ general idea of​ what you will do with your degree. Be sure to​ convey your career goals in​ your personal statement, as​ this proves that you have given some serious thought to​ your future, and therefore are more likely to​ finish the program.

How Do I Make My Personal Statement Stand Out from All the Rest?

Once you have outlined how you are going to​ answer the question or​ cover the five points listed above, you need to​ figure out how you will make your personal statement memorable. Remember, there are most likely hundreds of​ other applicants, all of​ whom will say more or​ less the same thing. Here are a​ few ways to​ make sure your stand out from the crowd.

• Make it​ personal. a​ successful personal statement should not read like a​ description of​ your resume. Instead, use stories and examples from your life to​ illustrate why you became interested in​ your chosen area of​ study, and your experiences as​ you have pursued it​ thus far.

• Make it​ organized. a​ personal statement is​ not a​ term paper, but it​ should still be well organized. Make sure your sentences flow well from one paragraph to​ the next.

• Make it​ between one and three pages. Like a​ resume, it​ is​ hard to​ say how long a​ personal statement should be. Some admissions boards may only ask one question to​ be answered, allowing your personal statement to​ be as​ short as​ 250 words. On the other hand, more complex answers may require as​ many 750 words.

• Have a​ theme or​ thesis. Like any other personal essay, your personal statement should have a​ unifying theme. The anecdotes you use to​ illustrate the above five topics or​ answer the admission board’s question should also support your theme.

• Maintain a​ professional tone. as​ a​ graduate, you are no longer just a​ student – you are also a​ professional in​ your field. Your personal statement should reflect your professionalism and dedication to​ your studies.

• Gear it​ toward the specific school. While you may be able to​ reuse certain sections of​ your personal statement for other schools, sending out the same essay to​ every school is​ a​ major faux pas. For one thing, many schools differ in​ their requirements: They may impose a​ different maximum or​ minimum length, or​ ask that different questions be answered. Make sure that your personal statement is​ written for the specific requirements of​ the school you are applying to.

• Proofread your work. Nothing will turn an​ admissions board off faster than sloppy writing. if​ you are going to​ convince them that your graduate degree is​ one of​ your top priorities, then your personal statement should reflect your level of​ dedication. Take the time to​ perfect your work, eliminating typos and grammatical errors as​ well as​ fine-tuning the overall message.

Writing a​ Winning Personal Statement

While it’s true that there is​ a​ lot riding on your personal statement, this does not mean that it​ needs to​ be difficult to​ write. By understanding the purpose of​ the exercise, making sure that it​ concisely yet thoroughly covers the necessary information, and minding details such as​ organization and grammar, anyone can write a​ winning personal statement.

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